Second Sunday After Christmas Day: Holy Name of Jesus Day

This is a day in the liturgical year that celebrates the naming of Jesus. Usually celebrated on Jan 1, being eight days after Jesus birth when he would have been dedicated and circumcised. The Revised Common Lectionary does not always have verses used on the days specified by biblical chronology. And since I do not post on Friday, which is January first this year, I decided to use the following scripture passages this day.

Psalm 8 is wonderfully suited to this day. Stop and think a moment on the coincidence of the writer of Psalms writing this praise to God far in advance of any humanly known plan for Jesus’ birth. But God, in the way that God is all-knowing knew. From the time that it was written, down through the years, it has been a celebration of the Almighty God, and a thanksgiving that humanity has been so adored by God as to promote the gift of God’s son to us.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

God from the very beginning of calling out the Lord’s people had desired to set them apart as a testimony to the Lord’s involvement in humanity. In some respects the birth of Jesus was the beginning of a new relationship between God and humanity. But in other respects it was a culmination of what God had always hoped would be the relationship between the God-self and humanity.

The Book of Numbers is a culling together of God’s people, forming them by laws and rules, teaching them how to get along. It is often misunderstood and used out of context. Some of its laws and rules do not (or should not) apply now. It’s main attempt, I think, is to give structure to God’s people’s lives. They were to be God’s people – often getting wrong the way the should live, and substituting strict admonitions for caring compassion. In that respect, not much has changed. But God’s intentions are clear.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, . . . . So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Number 6:22-23, 27)

The blessing that was given to God’s people at that time is a blessing that has been passed down generation to generation. I have used it several times, and each occasion is marked especially in my mind. I give it to you, beloved reader, as a reminder that who ever you are, you are favored and loved by God, known and named as a child of God . Selah!

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

(Numbers 6:24-26)

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PUNISHMENT OF THE GODLESS . . . . It will come. But do not live for that day!

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (Reference: 2 Peter 3:3-7 )

Scoffers have come and gone, writer of 2 Peter. Generations of them. And yet the world goes on. We have had proclaimers of the world coming to an end in all shapes and sizes. And each one of those proclaimers has passed on to the next world. But this world goes on. If we are in the last days, the last days have gone on for hundreds of years.

But I am not scoffing, beloved. Neither am I following my own desires. I see proof all around me that God’s power and might is as strong now as in the past. What I do not see is any proof that these last days are any different than the last days of decades ago. So what must I understand, writer of 2 Peter?

Walter of Stoelwijk posed the question, “who are these unbelievers, who do not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and shall therefore suffer everlasting pain?” and answered it saying, “They are those who now do not observe the commandments of Jesus Christ, and will not suffer for the name of God, or confess the truth according to the instruction of the Gospel . . .“ Many of the historic Anabaptists believed they were living in the last times and they would be delivered from the persecution and oppression that was pressed against them. But the Day of Judgment did not come, and all of those who lived in that time, both the historic Anabaptists and their accusers, they all passed away as mortals do.

Hear me well, beloved. If you are living for the day that the “godless” will be punished and the “Godly” will be rewarded, you are not truly living. It is not the Day of Judgment that you should be ready for, but the daily question, . . . . are you living for yourself? Or living for God? This is a question some of the historic Anabaptists wrestled with, and this past year we have heard their voices speak of their faith. If you would remember them for anything, remember them for sincere efforts to live as they felt God called them to live. Selah!